Missed our Parenting with Love Seminar? Here are the key takeaways from our Parenting with Love: Preparing Your Child For Primary School Seminar, held on 25 April at SMU Mochtar Riady Auditorium.

Did you know? According to the Children’s Society (2006), up to 20 – 25% of primary and secondary students have been bullied in Singapore. What are the tell-tale signs of a child who is being bullied? When do we step in and when to leave it to the kids to resolve their own conflicts?

How To Bullyproof Your Child

Dr Vanessa von Auer, Clinical Director and Clinical Psychologist at VA Psychology Center (pictured below) shows us how we can teach children to stand up for themselves without embracing violence.

Dr Vanessa von Auer Clinical Psychologist of the VA Psychology Center

1. Educate yourself and your child

Know what exactly entails bullying and how to spot it. Bullying is an aggressive behavior that causes distress or harm to the person which includes humiliating and shunning. These actions are repeated over time. If it only happened once, that does not count as bullying.

Know what are the different types of bullying. Some examples of direct bulling are hitting, punching, kicking, shoving, name calling and threats. Some examples of indirect bullying are ostracization, spreading rumors and cyber bullying.

Make use of daily conversations to conduct “Life lessons”. When you notice an act of bully on the news, in a show or in public, discus them with your child, note their reactions and use these teachable moments to educate your child. A recommended app you can use is Upstander.

2. Teach Empathy

Help your child to label their feelings. Discus how they feel if there were victims and remind them how they felt when they were hurt. More importantly, model empathy in your own behavior.

Balloon Exercise. A simple activity you can do with children, take a bright coloured balloon and blow it up. Draw a happy face on the balloon and tell them to imagine that this balloon is a person. Give the balloon a name (i.e. Jane). Tell them to say or do something bad which might hurt Jane. Deflate the balloon each time the child says or does something mean, until the balloon is left with no air and ‘disappears’. Ask the child, “What do you think happened to Jane?”

parenting seminar How to bully proof your child

3. Teach Assertiveness

Superhero me. Creating a healthy image to have or aspire to have is very powerful for children. You can ask your child to draw a superhero with all the good qualities (i.e. brave, fast, strong) written inside the superhero’s body. It can be a superhero that is well known (i.e. Superman or Spiderman) or it can be someone that they make up.

Positive body language. Some bullies select their victims. Having a weak body language may invite bullies to pick on your child. Teach your children to look confident with the right positive body language – hold their heads up, upright posture, have a confident smile and strong eye contact.

4. Five ‘Finger’ Steps to stop harassment and bullying

Use the fingers on their hand to represent the five steps.

  1. Ignore (thumb)
  2. Walk away (index finger)
  3. Ask the person to stop (middle finger)
  4. Ask the person to stop in a stronger voice (ring finger)
  5. Tell a teacher or an adult they trust (pinky finger)

Once they are familiar with these steps, role-play possible scenarios at home with your child to practice these actions. It takes courage to ignore or walk away from an insult. Practicing these five steps will also give them the confidence to act them out when the situation calls for it.

In summary:

  • Parents have to continually educate themselves on their child’s generation
  • Parents have to be honest with themselves so they can help. Sometimes, our children may be the bullies.
  • Work openly/closely with the school
  • Do not go to your child’s rescue
  • Get children help (victim or bully) outside of school if problem persists

For more information or to seek professional advice, email Dr Vanessa at info@vapc.sg or visit www.vapc.sg for more information.